Tuesday 19th Sept – Meeting the MPs

Pictured R:L – Gill, from MP Gordon Marsden’s office; Kristie Legg, local mum, N Lancs Star Buddy and previous Blackpool Star Buddy; Liz Nuñez, local mum, previous Infant Feeding Lead and Peer Support Co-ordinator for Blackpool community; Zoe Walsh, local mum, Doula and campaign co-founder; local mum and mum-to-be Caroline; Alison Thewliss MP, chair of APPG IFI; Local mum of 2 Dani; Paul Maynard MP; Shel Banks, local mum, Infant Feeding Specialist and campaign co-founder; Loreto Iglesias, local mum, La Leche Leader and Chair of the Blackpool Maternity Matters group.

On Tuesday 19th Sept Blackpool was fortunate to host a visit from the Chair of the APPG for Infant Feeding and Inequalities, MP Alison Thewliss, who came down from Glasgow with her assistant Graeme to meet some Blackpool families with our Blackpool MPs.

Big thanks are due to Paul Maynard MP and his assistant Rob for attending, and to MP Gordon Marsden who, while unable to attend the meeting himself owing to commitments in Westminster, WAS able to send Gill from his office, who was great.

Two hours of discussion, lots of learning, hearing stories and other information about the infant feeding and peer support service over the past 10 years, and the loss of that service.

Here is a snapshot of the themes discussed at the meeting:

* awareness of this issue has reached Westminster and the Chair of APPG was sufficiently concerned to come and speak to local MPs and residents.

* the campaign has clear support from both Conservative and Labour MPs for Blackpool

* Blackpool mothers spoke about the difference it made, and how much they valued the service… One pregnant mum spoke about her concern that she will not have access to the support she so desperately needed and received last time

* there are no longer peer supporters for Blackpool families at the hospital, so that whilst North Lancashire still has hospital Star Buddies, and they aim to speak to all mums who need support on the ward, ultimately they are commissioned to support mums from Fylde and Wyre so priority now given by postcode

* the absence of an infant feeding lead for Blackpool now (commissioned with the peer support service) means there is no one for community staff to refer issues to, or to train the staff in breastfeeding OR formula feeding management, or to resolve issues around medications and breastfeeding, or unsafe preparation of powdered infant milk, or the rights of babies to be breastfed wherever they are, or the legal and social responsibilities of Blackpool businesses and employers to young families – no one tying the threads together to work for the  greater good of the population here.

* it was obvious from hearing the mothers speak that visits and contacts from peer supporters, and the availability of breastfeeding groups in the community, reduced much of the social isolation they felt in the early days , weeks and months of motherhood.

As the @APPGIFI Twitter feed said this evening, “Clear from the evidence we heard today that the peer support was about so much more than breastfeeding for the mums who used the service.”

Good to “talk together” as the poster says – but more action needed going forward.

Alison Thewliss MP in Blackpool today
MP Alison Thewliss pictured here at Revoe School in the country’s most deprived ward, Bloomfield in Blackpool, after the meeting.

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